The evening of February 6th, the fourth anniversary of Anonymous’s forcible dissolution of the first toy infosec player, HBGary, there was a spirited discussion in an obscure IRC channel. The consensus was this:
The wanna-be infosec players of the world are resurgent. Many who participated in Operation Payback will remember Backtrace Security, whose claim to fame was producing large, incorrect invoices and small, equally incorrect spreadsheets ‘identifying’ anonymous actors. Consternation Security is a slightly less disreputable clone of Backtrace, and they actually manage to scare the unwary. Both seem to be active again. When you see one mouse in your kitchen that’s a proxy for a whole nest. There are other, less comical efforts, competent enough to avoid being named and characterized.
The Internet crushed the life out of HBGary during 2011’s Superbowl Sunday. Provide Security fled the scene of a hilarious social engineering leak in the first days of 2013. My recent 1st Amendment court victory ensures the eventual demise of one of the odder iterations of online mall cop hijinks, ViaView.
This happens against the backdrop of Snowden’s leak bulldozing NSA (US), GCHQ(UK), ASD(AU), CSEC(CA) and GBSC(NZ). The activity on Twitter is a sort of ‘social terrarium’, a microcosm hosting analogs of all of the real world entities, including a digital shadow for the Islamic State. ISIS online is about to face the newly reconstituted Chindits, Britain’s 77th Brigade of World War II Burma guerrilla warfare fame.
These phenomena are contagions, albeit complex and multifaceted.
The other major forces at work are the #GamerGate trolls versus feminist/LGBT Social Justice Warriors. This is energetic enough and similar enough to ISIS’s online activities that I think we’ll see some legislation as a result. I have been revisiting The Offensive Internet and I hope that we can repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This was a wise law when the web was a toddler, but it’s now old enough to have graduated college, and has developed long term cyber-cesspools. These bastions of radical egalitarian absolutist free speech advocates (read: idiot trolls) are going to get similar treatment to ISIS.
Social media sites display a consistent cycle from inception to decline. Geocities fits as the first social media effort, and today a remanent remains in Japan. MySpace peaked in 2006 and has retained a niche in the music business. Facebook is bleeding teens to Instagram and Snapchat.
Twitter growth last quarter was a minuscule 1.4%. They are going to recover a bit thanks to a deal to let Google index the firehose, but this is consistent with what I’ve been saying – Twitter’s niche in its twilight years will be as the service that killed the RSS feed.
The self imposed quiet time I mentioned in Ethics In Game Journalism was not idle. The Twitter Recorder Machine (which I have written, but did not name) has been receiving steady attention. It does a passable job of handling accounts that are suspended, self-deleted, or switched to protected status. My Github account has begun to host configuration for what makes sense to do next: using mcabber to log Jabber chat rooms and irssi logging of IRC channels is just starting.
Overall, 2015 is going to be a year of things coming apart in the real world, and social media will parallel this.
Where do these trends this leave the wanna-be contingent?
Much of what those people do is pathological: Lonely schizotypal/schizophrenic adults play at spying, but they spin out or flee when the heat is on. dark triad manipulators like the target rich, largely consequence free environment. The highly personalized nature of social media is tailor made for conspiracy theorists, who are certain that random uncorrelated events are all organized by some amoral superman.
One of the documents from the Edward Snowden leak has lingered on my desktop for several weeks now, avoiding several filing pogroms. I take this as an indication I should be doing something more with The Art of Deception. The wanna-bes are an excellent set of guinea pigs; not so numerous, largely transparent in methods and motivations, and compulsively over-communicating in order to maintain their place in the pecking order.
If our government permits the Five Eyes agencies to do these things to society at large, surely there is no problem with you undertaking some experiments of your own, right?